MCN’s David Poland and L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein got angry earlier today about not being invited by Universal to see Ron Howard‘s Frost/Nixon in time to run reviews concurrent with Variety‘s Todd McCarthy review, which was posted today, as well as a review by the Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt.
In fact Goldstein and particularly Poland were miffed that they weren’t invited to a specific screening held two days ago (Monday, 10.13.08) that McCarthy and Honeycutt were invited to and attended.
Poland makes some valid points in criticizing Universal’s trades-first Frost/Nixon screening policy. However, he also went off on In Contention‘s Guy Lodge by calling him a “non-pro” and his review an “AICN-style” type deal. It didn’t read that way to me. Here’s what In Contention‘s Kris Tapley had to say, and I’ve pasted here his final two graphs:
“In a nutshell, David was just left out in the cold, without the chance to anoint (or disassemble) Frost/Nixon before anyone else. End of story. Additionally, despite his insults, he is as ‘non-pro’ as the next guy. We’re all making a place at the table for ourselves. For some that means offering film coverage via global contribution. For others, it means muscling studios with inflated Oscar ad rates” — he’s talking about what Poland is charging per ad space — “based on the aggregation of other names and sources for the purposes of Oscar coverage.
“It is what it is. But like I said, I felt compelled to step in and defend Guy here, because nothing warranted this (but hey, we appreciate the link).”
One HE observation: I think it’s fair to say, given what people in London and Los Angeles have written, that in the space of the last 12 to 18 hours Frost/Nixon has been shown and at the very least been diminished as a Best Picture contender with any kind of real heat. It might become one of the five nominees anyway — the play was more than sturdy, and the film relies on the same basic bones — but there’s no disputing that Ron Howard‘s film has been dinged, bruised, shelled and even torpedoed today, and that it may be out of hot-and-heavy competition in the Best Picture race as a result. Maybe.
Frank Langella is a different story — at the very least he’s looking okay for a Best Actor nomination. Maybe. He was great in the play, that’s for sure. A landmark performance of its type.
“Frost/Nixon is an effective, straightforward bigscreen version of Peter Morgan‘s shrewd stage drama about the historic 1977 TV interview in which Richard Nixon brought himself down once again,” writes Variety‘s Todd McCarthy. So do terms like “effective” and “straightforward” counterbalance the less enthusiastic descriptions that have emerged? Calling a movie “effective” and “straightforward” is…how to say it? It’s a bit like describing a girl you met at a party last weekend as “smart,” “friendly” and “really nice.”
Ron Howard‘s movie, says McCarthy, “isn’t out to ‘get’ its much vilified subject as much as it tries to cast him as something of a tragic victim of his own limitations and foibles — tragic for the perpetrator and his country alike. Frank Langella‘s meticulous performance will generate the sort of attention that will attract serious filmgoers, assuring good biz in upscale markets, but luring the under-40 public will pose a significant marketing challenge.”
The only people out there who are truly offended by liberal humanistic values in Hollywood movies are the rabid reds, who live in a different country anyway so let ’em stew on their side of the fence. I’ve scrapped tooth and claw with the Dirty Harry‘s of the world and I know who and what they are. They’re about hammering all day and into the night. They’re the nephews, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Westbrook Pegler. They actually believe Sarah Palin will be a formidable presidential candidate in ’12. They’re not necessarily the ones holding up Obama monkey dolls and shouting “kill ’em!” at McCain-Palin rallies but neither do they seem inclined to admonish those who’ve done so. They’re the laughing stock of the world and the shame of this nation. If I could clap my hands and be rid of them, I would clap my hands.
The AP’s David Germain is reporting that “about 15 newspapers and several TV stations and cable channels” are refusing to run ads for Kevin Smith‘s Zack and Miri Make a Porno because they find the word “porno” objectionable. “Commercials for the film during Los Angeles Dodgers games on Fox Sports were dropped at the team’s request,” says Germain, “after some viewers complained.”
If my six-year-old kid asked, “Dad, what’s ‘porno’ mean?,” I’d say “a porno is a dumb movie made by people with no talent who take their clothes off and roll around and make noises.” Simple.
It’s being pointed out by Jack Morrissey and others that when you visit this Palin as President interactive visual site (which you can’t access on an iPhone) that (a) clicking on many items many times produces different results and (b) that visitors should turn their computer volume up. Particular suggestions: Click on the door a few times, and then the deer. Open the blinds. Open the left window. Click on the portrait, the empty frames, the presidential seal on the wall, and, without fail, the red phone. (Updated daily until November 4th.)
Movie titles with a secondary subtitle — titles like Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo — usually indicate mediocrity or at least uncertainty on the part of the distributor. But the practice suggests an interesting riddle game. The idea is to come up with a tight and expressive subtitle that indicates what the movie delivers (or seems to promise) on a primal popcorn level.
Example: In discussing Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood some 35 years ago, Tom Wolfe claimed that a key line came when Dick Hickock said to Perry Smith prior to their fateful visit to the Clutter home, “Honey, we’re gonna blast hair all over them walls.” Wolfe concluded that “hair on the walls” was the invisible subtitle of In Cold Blood — the book as well as the film. So the the title in the poster would naturally read as follows:
IN COLD BLOOD:
Hair on the Walls
The game is a lot tougher than it seems. The subtitle has to say it just right in a kind of haiku way. Simpleton example: The Wizard of Oz: No Place Like Home. The campiest and most emotional movies are the easiest to figure. Gone With The Wind: Waitin’ There Like A Spider. (Alternate: Gone With The Wind: Never Be Hungry Again.) Or Mommie Dearest: No Wire Hangers!
But what, for example, would the subtitle of Mamma Mia be? Twilight? Laurence Olivier‘s Hamlet (’48)? Lina Wertmueller‘s Seven Beauties? Au Hasard, Balthazar? Spartacus? All About Eve? All The President’s Men? It’s hard. Choose any movie title in the world but make it good. Nothing stupid or coarse. Nothing along the lines of Reservoir Dogs: Ear-Slice With Me.
True confession: Years ago in a West Hollywood bar I ran into the famous Scott Wilson, who played Hickock in the 1967 film version of In Cold Blood. I’ve always regretted not going up to his table and asking him sign a napkin with the words “Scott Wilson — hair on the walls.” I wimped out, of course, thinking he’d probably be offended. That was probably the right thing to do, but I’ve felt badly for years that I didn’t do this. Why is that? I’ve made mistakes in life, but who hasn’t? The thing that won’t leave you alone are the things you chickened out on — the things that might have been.
An insider on the new Bad Lieutenant team, responding to the Abel Ferrara item posted earlier this morning, explains it all: “The whole reason the film was made was because [executive producer] Avi Lerner got hold of the rights, which he bought from Ed Pressman for an undisclosed sum. And he went out and pre-sold the film in ten countries for $30 million, or an average of $3 million per country.
“Lerner funded the film for $20 million, and pocketed $10 million for himself. Nic Cage, who likes New Orleans and owns a home there, took a substantial pay cut — only about $2 million — because he wanted to work with [director] Werner Herzog, who probably got his first decent payday check out of this deal. William Finklestein‘s script wasn’t good but Herzog upgraded it considerably. Lerner didn’t even look at the script.”
“Oddly bloodless,” “coldly unilluminating,” protagonists who “rarely emerge as living, breathing people,” and a “doggedly linear approach to storytelling [that] only gets Ron Howard so far”? In Contention‘s Guy Lodge has delivered a fairly stiff slapdown to Frost/Nixon following a showing today at the BFI London Film Festival. I know how satisfying Peter Morgan‘s play and Frank Langella‘s Nixon performance are (or were on stage) so on one level it’s puzzling. But it’s not as if restrained or muted reactions haven’t cropped up before.
Original Bad Lieutenant director Abel Ferrara feels angry and slighted for not being asked to direct the new Bad Lieutenant, which Werner Herzog has hired to helm instead with with Nic Cage in the title role. The newbie isn’t a remake but some kind of continuation of a theme, or so I’ve read. Ferrara’s best line is that producer Ed Pressman “sucks cocks in hell.” (Very Catholic sentiment, that — cribbed from William Friedkin‘s The Exorcist.) Here’s a portion of the Filmmaker magazine q &a in which Ferrara lays it all out:
Filmmaker: “What are your feelings about Werner Herzog doing his version of Bad Lieutenant?”
Ferrara: “He can die in hell. I hate these people – they suck. A, he don’t know me, couldn’t pick me out of a line-up. B, I’m chasing windmills. Well, I’d rather chase windmills than steal other people’s ideas. It’s lame. I can’t believe Nic Cage is trying to play that part. I mean, if the kid needed the money… It’s like Harvey Keitel said, ‘If the guy needed the money, if he came to us and said, ‘My career’s on the rocks,’ I’d cut him a break.’ But to take $2 million – I mean, our film didn’t cost half of $2 million. That film was made on blood and guts, man. So I really wish it didn’t upset me as much as it does.”
Filmmaker: “You’re going to be doing the prequel to King of New York soon.”
Ferrara: “So I’m ripping off Abel just like that too. [laughs] If I did King of New York, I’m not doing the prequel to Aguirre: the Wrath of God, okay? Let me put it that way.”
Filmmaker: “So they’re making the film against your will?”
Ferrara: “Absolutely. Nobody asked us to do it. Nobody approached us and said, ‘Would you do it?’ Give us $8 million, we’ll come up with something. They give me twenty grand and say, ‘Go fuck yourself.’ Gimme a break! They aren’t paying Harvey anything, they aren’t paying him two cents. Ed Pressman sucks cock in hell, period. You can print that.”
Frost/Nixon director Ron Howard, posting today in the Times Online, says he hopes “the film does [for audiences] what Peter’s play did for me — reminds us that accountability matters.
“When the system allows our leaders to hide behind verbal gymnastics, or to have their sins blithely rationalized by the complexity of the office they hold, it is up to the people to demand a reckoning. And while the media is an industry vying for customers, it must somehow also be that instrument of enlightenment for us, the public who so desperately rely upon it.” (Which is precisely what Dan Rather said a day or so ago in Manhattan.)
“I hope that our film reminds us all that truth, in the end, is not merely a good idea, but is worth struggling for. And, last but not least, I hope that it reminds us of the pleasure and excitement of a good human drama well played. I experienced that in London a couple of years ago, and I hope those who see Frost/Nixon on the screen feel that same sensation.”
Howard wrote the piece as a tip of the hat to Frost/Nixon’s showing tonight at the 52nd Times BFI London Film Festival, which will run until 10.30.
Lawrence O’Donnell is predicting that former Secretary of State Colin Powell will soon endorse Barack Obama and thereby hammer “the final nail” into the McCain candidacy. Powell has been reportedly leaning toward this since last summer. Mulling, sorting it all through, weighing pros and cons. Powell needed to see all three debates before making a decision? Will he wait another week? Two? I don’t respect the dilly-dally.